FOREIGNER's JEFF PILSON: I've Known About MICK JONES's Parkinson's Disease Battle 'For Years'

February 27, 2024

In a new interview with Scott Penfold of Loaded Radio, FOREIGNER bassist Jeff Pilson was asked if he knew about FOREIGNER co-founder and guitarist Mick Jones's battle with Parkinson's disease before it was publicly announced earlier this month. Jeff responded (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I've known about it for years, but what's really funny is I actually suspected it before he even got diagnosed. I forget if I spoke with him. I don't think I actually spoke with him directly about that when I suspected it. But I remember speaking with management and saying, 'Has anyone checked to see if he has Parkinson's?' And they were, like, 'Yeah, they've talked about that. That's been dealt with,' or whatever. I never got the clear answer that… I mean, I know that they didn't have the diagnosis [at the time], but when the diagnosis happened, I wasn't surprised. My stepdad had Parkinson's, so I was very familiar with it in general. And so I would say, no, I wasn't shocked by it."

Pilson continued: "I'm really glad he's made the announcement because now people understand why he hasn't been able to do as many live shows as he would have liked. But Mick is doing great. And I think his announcing it is actually gonna help other people because I'm hoping we can call attention to Parkinson's, get a little money into Parkinson's research because they can find a cure for this, I believe. I really do. I think they're getting closer every day. So, let's hope this helps."

Asked if he and the rest of FOREIGNER find that they still face criticism for technically not having any original members left in their touring lineup, Jeff said: "I find that we face very, very little of that. My God, we did an entire tour last year, Mick didn't join us once, and the summer tour was a massive success. So people were having fun and they're digging the shows and we're delivering. I know that. I know how strong we are. And I know that Mick endorses what we do a thousand percent, obviously. And we've worked very hard to sustain his vision. I think that's the only reason Mick would even vaguely trust us to do this, is because he knows how much we believe in his vision and wanna ensure that it happens. And we do. I think we honestly do. I really believe that we deliver very, very strongly, and I know that Mick feels that way."

Jeff continued: "What we're giving the public, we're giving them a real FOREIGNER. There doesn't happen to be any original members out there, but we're giving them FOREIGNER.

"I've been in the band 20 years now, Kelly [Hansen, FOREIGNER singer] 19. So it's, like, we areFOREIGNER now. It is the absolutely Mick Jones-endorsed FOREIGNER. It just happens to be circumstance that there's no original members, but we're delivering. So the criticism, sure, I see some of it, but it's really limited considering we're selling out 15,000 seaters. So, obviously, the criticism is very minor. And I'm kind of surprised at how little there is, considering there's no original members most of the time, but I'm grateful for it, and I believe it's because we deliver."

The 79-year-old Jones, who has not performed with FOREIGNER since 2022, opened up about his diagnosis in a social media post on February 21. He wrote: "Fans will have become very aware that for some time now, I have not been performing onstage with the band. Several years ago, I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. I want everyone to know that I am doing alright. However, I've always liked to be at my best when performing onstage, and sadly, at present, I find that a bit difficult. I am still very much involved in the background with FOREIGNER and remain a presence.

"Parkinson's is a daily struggle; the important thing is to persevere and remind myself of the wonderful career I've had in music.

"I thank all the fans who have supported FOREIGNER throughout the years and continue to attend our concerts — I want you to know I appreciate your support; it always means so very much to me, but especially so at this point in my life."

On February 10, it was announced that FOREIGNER is among the nominees for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame's Class Of 2024.

To be eligible for this year's ballot, each nominee's first single or album had to have been released in 1999 or earlier.

Eligible since 2002, FOREIGNER has had a huge number of rock hits, including "Cold As Ice", "Double Vision", "Hot Blooded", "I Want To Know What Love Is", "Juke Box Hero" and "Urgent", and has been nominated for three Grammy Awards, with no wins.

According to the Hall Of Fame, the FOREIGNER members that would get inducted include only the classic-era musicians Jones, Lou Gramm, Dennis Elliott, Ed Gagliardi, Al Greenwood, Ian McDonald and Rick Wills.

Photo credit: Karsten Staiger

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